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Amphibians at Jeju: the Amphibian Survival Alliance’s take on the IUCN congress

October 1, 2012

Amphibians are facing the one of the fastest rates of extinction of any animal group. But how much attention did they receive at the IUCN Congress last month? The Director of the Amphibian Survival Alliance, Jaime Garcia Moreno, took some time out to discuss this issue with the BioFresh blog.

Red-eyed Tree Frog. Photo: Creative Commons

BioFresh Blog: You recently attended the IUCN World Conservation Congress last month. What did you get up to there and were you pleased with the attention given to amphibian conservation at the congress?

Jaime Garcia Moreno: There was very little attention put to amphibians at the Congress – the amphibian conservation workshop that we co-organised, and the motion that we helped put forward to the members were the only amphibian-focused activities that I am aware of.

BB: I noticed that the motion to step up efforts to combat the amphibian crisis was passed with attention to amphibian trade added as an amendment. Amphibian trade is an issue that has been covered by the BioFresh blog previously. What is the significance of the amendment?

JGM: We thought it was necessary to include the trade paragraph because there are species affected by this. The volume of amphibians traded for food is small enough (compared [for example] with fisheries) that it is not picked up in other forums. We know, however, that some of the frogs traded for food are not coming from breeding facilities but collected from the wild and in volumes representing very large numbers of individuals. Trade monitoring and assessment is difficult – not only do frog legs from different species look alike, but the World Customs Organisation removed its Harmonized System code for amphibians. This leaves amphibians together with leeches, spiders, scorpions, worms – leading to confusion. Live amphibians are often classified with live reptiles or ornamental fish with whom they are often shipped, and for which codes do exist.

BB: What action, if anything, will this motion lead to?

JGM: The motion is a stark reminder that there is an awful lot to do if we want to turn the tide for amphibians. There was a motion four years ago, [at the IUCN congress] in Barcelona, urging parties to join efforts to combat the amphibian crisis, and unfortunately it was necessary to remind everyone that the crisis is far from over and that it is being fought with very limited funding.

We hope that the motion will remind all of those who care about the diversity of life that amphibians are still the most threatened terrestrial group of animals, that we keep losing species and that many populations continue to decline, so we will lose more if we don’t act now. We ought to remind ourselves that as long as we cannot make one of these creatures from scratch, it is our responsibility to keep them on the planet.

Next week we will be presenting another interview with Jaime Garcia Moreno, who discusses the future for amphibian conservation and the work that the ASA are doing.

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